I have 8,000 reasons for feeling optimistic about 2017.
That might sound strange in a world gripped by 40 active conflicts and threatened by climate change.
But while the news is dominated by the strutting strong men in the White House and the Kremlin, I’m reassured by the knowledge that there’s a generation of young leaders waiting in the wings, ready to build a better future for us all.
More than 1,300 of them will be gathering in Bogotá, Colombia, in October for the ninth annual One Young World Summit. The topics on the agenda are not for the faint-hearted; delegates will be seeking a way forward in tackling extreme poverty, global warming, conflict, bad education and, yes, governmental failure.
But despite the daunting scale of the agenda I have no doubt that this delegation of young leaders will leave Bogotá and return to their 194 countries inspired and empowered by the ideas and deeds of their peers.
One Young World’s community of 8,000 Ambassadors who have attended one or more of our Summits now represents a remarkable pool of talent.
- Ending poverty: During Sierra Leone’s Ebola crisis, PJ Cole's Lifeline Nehemiah Projects provided 13,000 people with supplies, built an Ebola Clinic which treated 270 patients, and found homes for over 100 orphans. It provides education to 700 children and has a programme to teach 35,000 farmers skills for sustainable agricultural businesses.
- Decent Work, Economic Growth and Innovation: Rossella Napolano, Head of Environment, ENEL, helped lead the development of the first sustainable-energy construction project in Mexico. Overall ENEL created over 600 jobs in the local community, increasing employment by 20%. Rossella and her team are now applying this sustainable approach to other projects around the world.
- Creating Peaceful and Inclusive Societies: Following the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015, François Reyes created Réveil Citoyen (Citizen’s Awakening), a political think-tank aiming to foster a better understanding between people through peaceful debates about current issues in civil society. To date, 42 events have been held globally, engaging 3,000 government officials.
- Partnerships for the Future: After attending the One Young World Summit in 2015, Kaleigh Killoran was inspired to work with other young professionals and contribute to GE Foundation projects. She led the GE team in coaching the entrepreneurs to improve the operations of their current plant and write a business plan to support raising additional capital investment. Today the original plant serves approximately 50 medical facilities treating over 60,000 patents and serving a community of over eight million people.
Anyone who doubts that the colossal challenges of the world can be overcome might look to the example of Colombia itself, which last year signed an historic ceasefire between the Government and FARC rebels that effectively ended a 52-year civil war.
One Young World will be hearing from young Colombians on lessons learned in building peace toward reconciliation.
But the value of the One Young World community is not confined to the good practice shared during an annual Summit where they also hear from counsellors such as Kofi Annan, Muhammad Yunus and Mary Robinson.
The work that these young leaders go home to do delivers tangible impact across the Sustainable Development Goals. On average, every US$1 invested spent on an Ambassador-led initiative generates US$13 in social value.
The ripple effect is extraordinary, with 3.2 million people positively impacted since One Young World’s last Summit was opened in Ottawa by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last September, and 14.6 million impacted since 2010.
Our 8,000 Ambassadors never cease to be members of One Young World but remain part of a network that continues to grow and fills me with confidence that, whatever the challenges of the era we inhabit now, there are better times ahead.
Kate Robertson is co-founder of One Young World.
Read our full 2016 impact report here.